Article originally published on Forbes.
Do you have a mentor? Statistics show that 54% of professionals claim they do not have a mentor. This is unfortunate because research also shows that professionals who have a mentor:
• Feel happier and more satisfied with their career
• Are more committed to their work
• Earn more money and are more frequently promoted
• Believe in their own career trajectory
I’ve had numerous mentors in my career. Some were great, while some were a better example of what not to do — and that has helped me grow, too!
The biggest question I get from my clients is how do I get a mentor? They aren’t just walking down the street offering help. You have to know where to look, and you have to make sure that you find the right fit.
Finding A Mentor
One of the best places to find a mentor is in organizations, networking groups and volunteer positions. They’re usually people from different backgrounds, with different levels of experience, and because they are like-minded and share a purpose with you, it is easier to connect.
Finding a mentor in your specific field or industry can be beneficial to your career growth. When you’re attending industry-specific organization events, be on the lookout for someone who stands out to you for their personality, connectedness and accomplishments. This could be the guest speaker, someone in a trade show or just another attendee. Regardless of position or age, someone who is further along in your industry then you are could make a great mentor.
Your local chamber of commerce is also a great place to find a mentor. You might find someone in your field, or you might find somebody in an adjacent industry that has similarities to your own. Because chambers of commerce host events for professionals at all different levels, with notable guest speakers, you are likely to find a possible mentor to help you grow.
If you are an entrepreneur or business owner, you should also check out SCORE. This nonprofit organization has chapters all over the country and, as a resource partner for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), offers free mentorship in a variety of different business topics, including strategy, marketing and finances and funding. The mentors are qualified executives that teach through one-on-one sessions and workshops.
Becoming A Mentor
Now, I know you’re thinking, “Wait! I want to get a mentor, not be one!” But, hear me out. Becoming a mentor yourself can benefit you in several ways and even make finding your own mentor easier.
When you volunteer as a mentor, you are likely to do so through a pre-established organization. I have already mentioned SCORE, which is always accepting volunteer mentors. Additionally, universities, networking organizations and even places like country clubs often have mentor/mentee matching programs. Becoming a mentor demonstrates the “give to get” principle, showing others that you are invested in your community and professional development. Volunteering for these programs allows you to mix and mingle with other mentors, where you could develop relationships and ask one of them to mentor you as well.
There is a certain rhythm and structure to developing an effective mentor-mentee relationship. By becoming a mentor yourself, you get the opportunity to experience both sides. When you are giving of your own time to help someone else, you can determine methods for communication, a frequency for meetings and what topics are most beneficial to you both. This will make you a better mentee when you finally get a mentor of your own.
How To Maximize Your Mentorship
The first step to getting a good mentor is to be a practiced, prepared mentee. Despite what you may believe, there isn’t a secret mentor training facility somewhere. Many executives want to help others, but don’t have the time to create a plan. Here are some suggestions for setting up a successful and effective mentor relationship:
• Have a specific goal or purpose. Remember the last time you wanted to help someone, and they told you that “anything you could do to help” would be appreciated. Did you know where to start? Or did you feel like there was a lot of responsibility on you to figure out a plan and execute it? Asking for “any help you can give” puts a lot of onus on the helper to know where you are and what you need. Have a specific goal or purpose in mind for a mentoring session or relationship.
• Prepare an agenda. If two people sit down, order coffee and say “What do you want to talk about?” chances are it’s going to take a long time to get to anything of substance, if it all. Come prepared with an agenda that includes a brief introduction, but then has two to five bullet points breaking down a specific topic or goal. The meeting will be much more productive, and both parties will feel their time was valuable.
• Ask for very specific help. A little different from having an overall goal in mind, asking for specific help allows you to define action steps that should be quick and easy. For example, your overall goal might be to get a new job or a promotion. Specific help that you might request from your mentor could include a letter of recommendation, a strategic introduction, shadowing them for the day to gain experience or simply asking them to share their own experiences related to job hunting.
Finding a quality mentor isn’t a fast, easy process, but it is well worth the effort. With these steps, you can take the first steps toward finding a quality mentor to help define your goals, increase your happiness and, hopefully, your income!